Firm ground once again

LAX-bound plane

A few weeks ago, I had breakfast with a friend at a restaurant in South Gate. After breakfast, we were in the parking lot, saying our goodbyes and all the pleasantries, when all of a sudden she asked me, “What’s that noise?”

“The plane?”

“Yes, the planes!”

“Oh yeah, I live under the approach to LAX.”

“So you’ve heard this every day of your life?”

“Yeah, but it’s not bad. You get used to it. Besides, I don’t live in Lennox, where the planes are about a hundred feet above.”

Growing up with it, I rarely notice the planes flying above. The only times I take notice is when the planes fly too low, people point it out, or I stare at the sky. It’s the crazy neighbor who makes noise throughout the day. They fly above about every two minutes, and it’s only the planes that land in the northern runways (southern runway planes fly along Imperial Boulevard).

It’s one of those constants of living in South Gate: planes flying above every two or three minutes, train horns at 11 p.m. I don’t notice it much, but it’s one of those small details that visitors point out when they know where I live.

“How can you put up with the noise?”

“I don’t notice it. They’re up there and I’m down here. That’s just how it is.”

It’s true, I don’t notice it. The planes are high enough that buildings don’t rumble, and in my lifetime, there’s been one plane mishap in South Gate (in the late 1990s, a plane lost its landing gear and it landed on Firestone and Madison, across the street from St. Helen’s Catholic Church).

When I fly into LAX, I almost always have a window seat so I can see below me and figure out where I am. The passengers near me may think I’m crazy, but I spend the last ten minutes of a flight staring out the window and naming landmarks under my breath.

“That’s Rose Hills (can only tell at night)… the 605 and San Gabriel river… Oh, there’s the L.A. River!… the 710… Atlantic… South Gate Middle School… South Gate High School, My house… the 110… Just a few more minutes!”

Rubber hits asphalt. Firm ground once again.

Whether it’s a one-hour flight from San Francisco, three-hour flight from Guadalajara, or a six-hour transcontinental flight, there’s nothing that I like more than looking at the city from above.

5 thoughts on “Firm ground once again

  1. Dude, I do the SAME EXACT THING!! I always try to score a window seat on the left. I love flying into LA and trying to figure out where I am from landmarks and freeways. I’m from Inglewood, so by that point, the plane is pretty low, and if I’m quick my eyes can travel from Hollywood Park to my high school, and my house….

    But yeah, totally feel you. I’ve grown up with planes flying overhead, I remember we used to have to stop class to let the planes fly overhead. Every now and then, I will see a plane in the sky here in Philadelphia and I’ll be like, “Oh, yeah!”

  2. And still, I never notice that the sound isn’t there when I’m someplace away from Bell. (Btw, I always look for the water tower at the corner of Florence and California to orient myself from above).

  3. I think it’s the same living in the city. I’ve always lived near a freeway or major street and always in Mexicano/Chicano neighborhoods. The sounds of loud parties, trucks, traffic and random drunks singing in the middle of the night are familiar sounds. When a suburban friend of mine moved into my neighborhood he kept complaining about the noise and I was like “what noise???” 🙂

  4. I thought I was the only who would try to figure out where over L.A. we were flying; I live in Maywood so the L.A. river and the 710 are always good points of reference. Flying in from the East Coast is a treat.

  5. i agree, every time i fly i look out the window too, trying to locate my self. i kind of appreciate los angeles before landing. Most of the time i fly in from guadalajara and the grid over there is all fucked up, thats if you can call it a grid. When you fly over the US, its all nice and organized.

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